New P&G technology improves drinking water in developing countries

A new product system, developed by The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), makes water in developing countries germ-free, leaving it clear and drinkable.

ATLANTA, April 24 /PRNewswire/ -- A new product system, developed by The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), makes water in developing countries germ-free, leaving it clear and drinkable.

According to public health experts, these benefits might encourage more people in developing countries to effectively purify their drinking water -- and, as a result, reduce illness caused by water-borne diseases.

These findings, from a just-completed study, were presented today at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) annual Epidemic Intelligence Service Conference in Atlanta.

The research was conducted among 100 households in Guatemala by CDC epidemiologists Josefa Rangel, M.D., and Steve Luby, M.D., as well as researchers from the Medical Entomology Research and Training Unit (MERTU) in Guatemala and P&G.

NEW PRODUCT SYSTEM

P&G's new product is actually a two-step system.

First, the consumer mixes a small packet of a powder in a vessel of water. The powder contains both a "flocculant," which seizes and separates contaminants in the water, and chlorine, a common disinfectant. After stirring, contaminants in the water fall to the bottom, forming a visible sediment.

These contaminants can include dirt, pesticides, toxic heavy metals, such as arsenic and lead, as well as bacteria, viruses and protozoa that are resistant to chlorine alone.

Second, the consumer pours the contents of that vessel through a filtering cloth into a larger container for clean storage and dispensing. A level of chlorine is left behind to ensure cleaner drinking water.

P&G scientists developed this new system after consulting with the CDC and other public health experts. From its work with laundry bleach, P&G learned that chlorine alone, which many people in developing countries use to disinfect their drinking water, isn't ideal.

To kill harmful micro-organisms, people often use too much chlorine, which causes the water to taste and smell bad. This sometimes leads people not to purify their drinking water at all. Also, many families in these countries have access only to turbid, or murky, water, where chlorine is less effective in killing harmful micro-organisms. P&G's new system uses the right amount of chlorine.

Drawing on its knowledge of how to clean water and its expertise in health care, P&G developed the two-step system, which is now being tested. Patents are pending.

INITIAL RESULTS ENCOURAGING

The results being presented at the CDC conference today are early, butencouraging.

One hundred households from four neighboring Guatemalan villages were randomly selected for the study, which ran for four weeks in late 2000. Researchers measured bacterial contaminants and turbidity levels - in both the source and treated household waters.

The results: the new P&G system purified water as effectively as chlorine alone, but without the negative taste and smell attributes. Also, those who used the P&G system were twice as likely to judge their water as clear compared to persons who used chlorine alone.

In effect, this study confirms that P&G's new system works as intended, and that consumers can easily use it to effectively purify their drinking water. P&G is now working with the CDC to conduct further research to show how the new system might improve consumers' health.

Commenting on the results reported today, Dr. Rangel stated: "This new system was well-accepted, tended to decrease turbidity, effectively chlorinated water, reduced bacterial contaminants and improved the water's clarity. It appears to offer an alternative method for providing safe drinking water."

Based on the encouraging initial results, P&G will open a learning market in a developing country soon. The company expects the new system will be affordable, even for low-income consumers.

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